Lady Cats drop heartbreaker to Ozark before hitting road

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Berryville's Mackenzie Ruiz looks to dish the ball off against Ozark Friday at Bobcat Arena. (Chan Davis / Carroll County News)

BERRYVILLE -- Berryville overcame one deficit after another Friday night against Ozark at Bobcat Arena. The Lady Bobcats had everything they wanted with 30 seconds left: a tie game and the ball.

That all dissipated in a flash as Ozark stole the ball and went the other way for a fast-break layup, ending Berryville's chances of getting back to .500 in the conference after dropping a 63-60 decision to the Lady Hillbillies.

"It was a tough pill to swallow, no doubt about that," Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said.

Berryville dropped to 13-7 overall and 3-5 in 1-4A Conference after the loss. Ozark improved to 14-6 and 5-3.

Berryville trailed by six early in the fourth before making a solid run with three minutes left. The two teams traded baskets with the Lady Cats grabbing the lead one time. Ozark continued to score at the other end each time Berryville answered.

"It was a solid game throughout," Cornelison said. "The game was never one way or the other out of reach."

With the game knotted at 60-60, Ozark turned the ball over with 30 seconds left, giving Berryville hope for the final shot. But the Lady Cats couldn't convert as Ozark came up with enough defensive pressure to strip the ball.

"You expect a game like that to end like that," Cornelison said. "We knew exactly what we wanted to do. We were going to take the last shot and either win it or go to overtime. We ran a little stall game and they made a great defensive play. We didn't take care of the ball. Had we taken care of the ball we would be sitting here with a different tone of voice."

Britni Smith led the Lady Cats in double figures with 16 points. She was followed by Aleksei Smith with 12 and Allison Smith with 10. Sara Johnson added nine. The Lady Cats out-rebounded the Lady Hillbillies 33-15 and had two fewer turnovers (15-13). Berryville was 21 of 30 from the free throw line while Ozark connected on 7-of-15 attempts from the stripe.

"You look at those numbers and you win that game 95 percent of the time," Cornelison said. "We just didn't. We outplayed them in every aspect except they shoot a higher percentage from the floor."

Olivia Melton led Ozark with 15 points. Whitney Baker had 14.

It was an almost duplicate of Berryville's visit to Ozark on Dec. 14. The Lady Cats trailed by a point with the ball and less than a minute remaining before losing by three after turning the ball over.

"We just have to be stronger with the ball in that situation," Cornelison said. "Every game we have been right there. We just have to get over the hump. We have a solid group here. They are as frustrated about that loss as I am or anyone else. But eventually you put yourself in those situations enough you will figure it out."

The Lady Cats will attempt to get back on track at Gravette tonight as Berryville starts a three-game road trip. The Lady Cats play at Lincoln on Friday and Farmington on Tuesday before returning home against Pea Ridge on Feb. 1 for homecoming.

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